What are the Causes of Social Anxiety?


Social anxiety disorder is a complex mental health condition with a variety of causes, both genetic and environmental.  

As with most anxiety disorders, social anxiety disorder involves excessive or inappropriate fear of certain situations, in this case those pertaining to social interaction. Those with social anxiety disorder have excessive fears of being judged or criticized, and tend to avoid certain forms of contact with other people. Some with social anxiety disorder may avoid talking on the phone or speaking with strangers. 

Others have issues with eye contact, or may avoid social situations, such as work functions or parties. Because both the causes and manifestations of social anxiety disorder are complex, it is important that those who struggle with the disorder receive guidance from a trained mental health professional so as to determine the best course of action with regards to treatment.

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Some common causes of social anxiety disorder include: 

Genetic Predisposition

Anxiety disorders, as with most mental illnesses, are highly heritable, and those with a family history of anxiety disorders are more likely to develop anxiety disorders themselves. While the exact genetic components of anxiety disorders have yet to be determined, it is believed that certain genes affecting the amygdala, or the "fear center" of the brain, are central to the development and course of social anxiety disorder.

Environmental Factors

Along with genetic factors, environmental situations can greatly impact the course of social anxiety disorder in individuals. Occasionally, social anxiety disorder can develop as a response to trauma. Previously unaffected individuals may find themselves displaying symptoms of social anxiety disorder after experiencing greatly embarrassing events or situations. Additionally, an individual's family life can play a great role in the development of social anxiety disorder. Those who grow up in a household with someone with social anxiety disorder (such as a parent or sibling) may find themselves mirroring these maladaptive behavioral patterns, thus setting themselves up for the development of social anxiety disorder.

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February 29th, 2024

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